How to Use Instagram for Business: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide
Everything you need to know about using Instagram for business — from setting up your account to creating a winning strategy.
More than one billion people use Instagram every month, and roughly 90% of them follow at least one business. This means that, in 2021, using Instagram for business is a no-brainer.
In just over 10 years Instagram has grown from a photo-sharing app to a hub of business activity. Brands can run fundraisers in Instagram Live broadcasts, open shops from their profiles and let people book reservations from their accounts. Updates of new business tools, features and tips in the app have become pretty much routine.
It can be a lot to keep track of though, especially if running an Instagram business account is only one aspect of your job. So we’ve brought everything together here.
Learn how to use Instagram for business, from setting up an account from scratch to measuring your success.
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a lifestyle photographer used to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
How to use Instagram for business: 6 steps
Step 1: Get an Instagram business account
Start a new account from scratch or switch from a personal to a business account by following these steps.
3. Enter your email address. If you plan to grant access to multiple users or you want to connect your Instagram business account to your Facebook Page, make sure to use an admin email address to sign up or tap Log in with Facebook.
4. Choose your username and password and fill in your profile info. If you logged in with Facebook, you may be asked to sign in.
5. Tap Next.
Congrats! You’ve created a personal Instagram account. Follow the steps below to switch to a business account.
How to switching a personal account to an Instagram business account:
1. From your profile, tap the hamburger menu in the upper-right corner.
2. Tap Settings. Some accounts may see Switch to Professional Account from this menu. If you do, tap it. Otherwise, proceed to the next step.
3. Tap Account.
4. Choose Business (unless it makes sense for you to choose Creator).
5. If you plan to connect your Instagram and Facebook business accounts, follow the steps to connect your account to your Facebook Page.
6. Select your business category and add relevant contact details.
Research Instagram’s audience demographics to get a sense of who uses the platform. For example, 25-34-year-olds represent the largest ad audience on the site. Identify the key segments that overlap with your customer base, or hone in on active niches.
Knowing who’s in your audience puts you in a better position to create content. Look at the type of content your customers post and engage with, and use these insights to inform your creative strategy.
Set goals and objectives
Your Instagram strategy should establish what you hope to achieve on the platform.
Start with your business objectives and identify how Instagram can help you accomplish them. We recommend applying the SMART framework to ensure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.
These vary for each business, but in broad terms, plan to focus on metrics related to the social funnel.
Align your goals to one of the four stages in the customer journey:
Awareness: Includes metrics like follower growth rate, post impressions and accounts reached.
Engagement: Includes metrics like engagement rate (based on likes and comments) and amplification rate (based on shares).
Conversion: In addition to conversion rate, this includes metrics like click-through rate and bounce rate. If you’re using paid ads, conversion metrics also include cost per click and CPM.
Customer: These metrics are based on actions customers take, such as retention, repeat customer rate, etc.
Create a content calendar
With your audience and goals defined, you can plan to publish on Instagram with purpose. A well-planned social media content calendar ensures you don’t miss important dates and allows you to allot enough time for creative production.
Look for opportunities to develop themes or regular installments that you can build into a series. “Content buckets,” as some people call them, allow you to check certain boxes without having to overthink creation. The more planning you do upfront, the better you’ll be able to produce regular content and respond to last-minute or unplanned events.
Plan to publish when your followers are online. Because newsfeed algorithms consider “recency” an important ranking signal, posting when people are active is one of the best ways to improve organic reach.
With an Instagram business account, you can check the days and hours that are most popular for your audience:
1. From your profile, tap Insights.
2. Beside Your Audience, tap See All.
3. Scroll down to Most Active Times.
4. Toggle between hours and days to see if a specific time stands out.
Step 3: Optimize your Instagram profile to do business
An Instagram business profile gives you a small amount of space to accomplish a lot. It’s where people on Instagram go to learn more about your brand, visit your website or even book an appointment.
Write a great bio
The people reading your bio were curious enough to visit your profile. So, hook them in and show them why they should follow you.
In 150 characters or less, your Instagram bio should describe your brand (especially if it’s not obvious), and showcase your brand voice.
Cut straight to the point. Short and sweet is the name of the game.
Use line breaks. Line breaks are a good way to organize bios that include different types of info.
Include emoji. The right emoji can save space, inject personality, reinforce an idea or draw attention to important info. Make sure to find the right balance for your brand.
Add a CTA. Want people to click on your link? Tell them why they should.
Optimize your profile pic
When using Instagram for business, most brands use their logo as a profile picture. Keep your picture uniform across social media platforms to aid recognition.
Your profile photo displays as 110 x 110 pixels, but it’s stored at 320 x 320 pixels, so that’s the size you should aim to upload. Like most profile icons, your photo will be framed by a circle, so make sure you take that into account.
Use your one link in bio wisely
For accounts with less than 10,000 followers, this is the only spot on Instagram where you can post an organic clickable link. So be sure to include one! Link to your website, your latest blog post, a current campaign or a special Instagram landing page.
Add relevant contact info
When using Instagram for business, it’s important to provide a way for people to contact you directly from your profile. Include your email address, phone number or physical address.
When you add contact information, Instagram creates corresponding buttons (Call, Text, Email or Get Directions) for your profile.
Configure action buttons
Instagram business accounts can include buttons so that customers can book or reserve appointments. To use this feature, you need an account with one of Instagram’s partners.
From your business profile, tap Edit Profile, then scroll down to Action Buttons.
Add Story Highlights and covers
Instagram Story Highlights are another way to maximize your Instagram business profile’s real estate. Organize Stories into saved collections on your page, whether it’s recipes, tips, frequently asked questions or user-generated content.
Try to establish recurring themes of pillars that you can alternate. In some cases, the content will be obvious. A clothing line might showcase its clothes, and a restaurant might post photos of its food. If you offer services, try showcasing customer stories, or go behind the scenes to highlight office life and the people who make your company tick.
Look at other brands for inspiration. Air France, for example, alternates between destination shots, window seat views, travel amenities and airplane pictures.
Once you decide on your themes, create a consistent visual look. That includes a color palette and an overall aesthetic that your fans will instantly recognize when they see it in their Instagram feeds.
Take thumb-stopping photos
To make Instagram work for your business, you’ve simply got to have great photos. But you don’t need to be a professional photographer, and you don’t need a lot of equipment.
Your mobile phone is your best friend when it comes to Instagram photography since you can post straight from your device.
Use natural light. No one looks great with a flash lighting up the oiliest parts of their face and casting weird shadows on their nose and chin. The same is true for product shots. Natural light just makes shadows softer, colors richer and photos nicer to look at.
Avoid harsh light. Late afternoon is an unbeatable time to take photos. Cloudy days are better than sunny ones for mid-day shooting.
Use the rule of thirds. Your phone camera has a grid built in to help you follow this rule. Place your subject where the grid lines meet to create an interesting photo that’s off-center but still balanced.
Try different angles. Crouch down, stand on a chair — do whatever it takes to get the most interesting version of your shot (as long as it’s safe to do so, of course).
Keep it simple. Make sure your visual is easy to take in at a glance.
Make sure there’s enough contrast. Contrast provides balance, makes content more legible and is more accessible.
If you have the budget, support artists and hire photographers or illustrators.
Use tools to help you edit your photos
No matter how great your photos are, it’s likely you’ll need to edit them at some point. Editing tools can help you maintain your aesthetic, add frames or logos, or even create infographics and other original content.
Fortunately, there are a lot of free resources available, including Instagram’s built-in editing tools. When those tools don’t cut it, experiment with mobile photo editing apps, many of which are either free or very affordable.
Develop a clear brand voice so you can stay consistent. Do you use emoji in your captions? Is there a style guide that your brand follows? What hashtags do you use? A good set of guidelines will help keep your captions distinct and on-brand.
People have taken to the casual, disappearing nature of the format, even when it comes to brand content. A 2018 survey by Facebook found that 58% of participants became interested in a brand or product after seeing it in a Story.
Not surprisingly, this format is a great platform for storytelling. Tell authentic brand stories that have a beginning, middle and end. Engage your audience with Stories stickers and provide value for your viewers to get them in the habit of watching your Stories consistently.
Don’t forget, if you have more than 10,000 Instagram followers, you can also include links in your Instagram Stories.
Explore other formats
Instagram may have started as a simple photo-sharing app, but now the platform hosts everything from live broadcasts to Reels. Here’s a rundown of some of the formats that might be a good fit for your brand:
Instagram Carousels: Publish up to 10 photos in a single post. Hootsuite experiments have found these posts often have higher engagement.
Instagram Reels: This TikTok-esque format now has its own tab on the platform.
IGTV: Instagram TV is a long-form video format, ideal for recurring content series.
Instagram Live: Now up to four people can broadcast live on Instagram.
Instagram Guides: Brands have found several ways to share products, company news, how-to’s and more with this format.
If you’re serious about running an Instagram account for your business, you need to show your followers that you’re serious too. It’s not enough to just post quality content every once in a while. You need to post it consistently, so your audience knows they can expect a steady stream of interesting and helpful content from you on a regular basis — making your brand worth a follow.
That being said, humans who run Instagram accounts for business also need to take vacations and…sleep. That’s where scheduling your posts in advance comes in. Scheduling your Instagram posts with a social media management tool not only helps you stick to a consistent content calendar, but it saves you time and lets you take a break every once in a while.
This 4-minute video shows how to schedule and publish Instagram posts using Hootsuite. Bonus: with Hootsuite, you can schedule posts to all your social networks in one place, saving even more time.
Step 5: Grown and engage your audience
Respond to comments and mentions
Respond to comments and mentions of your business on Instagram, so users feel motivated to keep engaging with your brand.
You might be tempted to automate your engagement using bots. Don’t do it. We tried it, and it doesn’t work out so well. Dedicate some time to responding authentically when someone mentions or tags your brand.
Hashtags help make your Instagram content easier to find.
Captions on Instagram are not searchable, but hashtags are. When someone clicks on or searches for a hashtag, they see all the associated content. It’s a great way to get your content in front of people who don’t follow you — yet.
You might want to consider creating your own branded hashtag. A branded hashtag embodies your brand and encourages followers to share photos and videos that fit that image. It can be a great source of user-generated content and encourage community among your fans.
Tableware brand Fable encourages customers to post with the #dinewithfable hashtag and shares their posts in Stories.
Identify influencers and creators whose fans might be interested in your brand. Start with your own customer base. It’s possible you already have influential brand ambassadors, it’s only a matter of making the collaboration official. The more genuine the relationship is the better.
Use Instagram ads to get in front of a large, targeted audience
It’s no secret that organic reach is in decline and has been for a while. Investing in Instagram ads ensures you can get your content in front of a wide yet targeted audience.
In addition to extending the reach of your content, Instagram ads include call-to-action buttons that allow users to take action straight from Instagram, reducing the number of steps required to get them to your website or store.
One of the best ways to improve your results is to test different types of content to see how they perform. As you learn what works best for your specific audience, you can refine your overall strategy.
Here’s how to run an A/B test on Instagram:
Choose an element to test (image, caption, hashtags, etc.).
Create two variations based on what your research tells you. Keep the two versions the same except for the one element you want to test (e.g. the same image with a different caption).
Track and analyze the results of each post.
Choose the winning variation.
Test another small variation to see if you can improve your results.
Share what you learn throughout your organization to build a library of best practices for your brand.
If you have a hunch that something’s working, it’s a good practice to do your research and take a look at the data so you can understand why.
Save time managing Instagram fro business using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can schedule and publish posts directly to Instagram, engage the audience, measure performance and run all your other social media profiles. Try it free today.